Race has been a lingering and, more often, a problematic issue for America culturally, legally, and politically. Being branded “racist” or referencing race in a demeaning manner can bring condemnation and ostracizing upon such a person. Quite simply though the acknowledgment of race is racism and those engaged identifying people by race are no less offenders than those branded as racists.
Categorization is for the purpose of differentiation and separation far more than for purpose of inclusion. What purpose does identifying differences serve? It distinguishes the “us” from the “them.” It allows for an easy judgment to be made about someone and to exclude him or her from the privileges afforded to others.
I often speak to clients about truth, actuality, and reality. In truth what is, is. Truth is absolute. Similarly, actuality is what exists or has occurred while reality is what has been realized. Reality need not be correct or truthful because it is subjective. Reality is only achieved after input has passed through our sensory processing system which is fallible and coloured by the lens of our experience and biases.
When police radios chatter with descriptions of suspects as “white”, “black” or some other racial classification we may not perceive that as a racist action. But our shorthand manner of communication carries with it vast social implications. We rationalize our racist tendencies, of which we may be unaware, because we profess that convenience, long standing practice, or our individual intentions do not appear to be what we have been conditioned to perceive as racism. But the truth is, what is - is! A racist action, one that perpetuates racial distinction and ultimately discrimination is racism in action.
A person may be described as “a black man” which carries great social connotations based upon the perceptions or biases as to “man” and “black.” Identifying a suspect as “a person who appears male and has black skin” describes the actuality rather than the reality of the suspect.
So when thinking of how you speak in reference to people or objects consider whether you are being descriptive or delivering a social message. This can be realized in the manner by which we reference each other.
Clearly we are an ownership society based upon the capitalist nature of western civilization. This manifests itself in the phrases we use to express our relationships. We may say “this is my house”, “that is my car”, or “this is my child.” Certainly a car is titled to someone who owns it. It is his or hers. Likewise for the house. Often though people don’t own their cars but are instead “purchasing” in an ongoing series of payments. Less often do people actually own their homes as is so aptly demonstrated in foreclosures.
While discrimination and prejudice are essential skills for survival they may be misplaced in the social realm especially when it comes to the matter of race. Over 30 years ago I began to understand how government was using race as a means to promote prejudice and discrimination. When I was in prison race was exactingly used as a tool to promote hostility and foster antagonism between inmates so as to divert them away from collectively defeating the turnkeys. Inmate transfers from institution to institution were a means to keep any particular race from gaining control over an institution for if once inmate to inmate hostilities or power struggles were to cease then the administration of the institution would become the target.
I have tirelessly fought to eliminate the institutional or cultural racism that exists within our society. Without deliberate action by all it will continue. Government and NGO forms often ask for divisive personal information such as race or gender. I leave those spaces blank because they serve no other purpose than for government bureaucrats to impose a limitation on someone because of race or gender. If you want racism to stop then start with yourself. Do you identify yourself or others by the person’s race? If race is not an issue then don’t play into the racism game by making it one.
That’s my thoughts from this person who is male and has white skin.
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